Folks, I've got to make a retraction here, or at least a clarification. There's a piece of mine on session beers up on the BeverAge site this month in which I quote Todd Ashman, the legendary brewer who made Flossmoor Station, a south Chicagoland brewpub, a destination for beerlovers, with beers like "Trainwreck o' Flavors."
I talked to Todd extensively for my piece in the recent BeerAdvocate magazine 'extreme beer' issue, and, well, I evidently got an impression from him that was not quite accurate. I used material from that interview in the BeverAge piece (not recycled; I always have way too much stuff to use, and the BeerAdvocate extreme beer interviews produced tons more good material than I was able to use). Here's what I wrote in BeverAge:
Todd e-mailed me last week, concerned about this piece, and rightly so. Maybe he'd over-stated how much session-strength stuff he was doing at 50/50, and maybe I was hearing what I wanted to hear for the story I was doing, but Todd's message was clear: "I don't recall saying that I'd abandon brewing big beers, though I would start to brew more session style beers. Kellerbier, Zwickel, Landbier in particular."
Todd Ashman made a name for himself in the late 199Os at Flossmoor Station, a south Chicago brewpub. Ashman was one of the pioneers of barrel-aged beers, brews with huge flavor profiles derived from a varied program of wood-aging. I talked to him recently; he's getting ready to open 5O/5O Brewing in Truckee, California, where he'll be brewing mostly session-strength lagers. "I enjoyed doing that kind of stuff," he told me, "but when I left Flossmoor Station, I got a fair amount of it out of my system."
Some of the reason big beers are out of Ashman's system is that it's just not as much fun now. "It became more mainstream," he admitted. "People are buying them and drinking them, and if it's accepted, well, you're not really pushing the envelope so you've got to go on to something else. These [extreme brewers] are trying to find the next great thing. The doubling and 'imperializing,' the super-sizing of beers: something's going to catch on, but I've found that we're losing focus on what we're trying to do here."
I was shocked, and immediately scrambled back to my notes. First thing I checked was the two paragraphs above, what I'd actually written. I did overstate the brewing regimen of 50/50: Todd wants to work in more of those session-strength lagers, but said it would be mostly ales. My mistake, and I do apologize. The "abandon brewing big beers" concern is more open to interpretation; I probably could have phrased that better.
Like I said, could be me, could have been him, but I'd like to clear up any possible misunderstanding: Todd Ashman has not hung up his big beer-making boots. And wherever you fall on the session v. extreme question, I think you've got to be glad about that. Cheers, Todd: sorry to have concerned you, glad we could work it out.